Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Landline -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) protesters in Cairo continue to call

for Mr Mubarak's resignation. And

it's been 15 years between victories

but South Australia finally has but South Australia finally has a

domestic trophy after beating New

South Wales in the Twenty20 final at

the Adelaide Oval. The Blues made 8 for

for 153 off their twenty and the Redbacks reached the

the balls to spare. Thats the latest from balls to spare. Thats the latest Redbacks reached the target with 15

the ABC TV Newsroom.

This Program is Captioned Live (Theme music) On Landline today - from natural disasters agriculture left reeling to the other. from one end of the country that I've ever had all my life, The best year two and a half months. and we blew it all in two months, Wheat was just a complete write-off seen that happen. and I've never ever

and cost billions. The recovery is likely to take years 1 to $1.5 million, I would think it would be yeah. probably a financial setback for me, it may be the last straw. And for some, there's going to be some producers The saddest part about it is who won't be able to wear this. Hello, I'm Anne Kruger. of Landline. Welcome to a new season that's devastated vast areas And a stormy summer of rural and regional Australia. to catastrophic floods, From Cyclone Yasi since before Christmas. Emergency Services have been busy

We are coming to you this week fruit and vegetable markets. from Brisbane's wholesale hit harder There were few parts of town when the river broke its banks, and no-one would have been surprised in the nation's fresh food chain if this vital link had been knocked out for weeks. and an army of volunteers, Yet traders here at Rocklea, got stuck in repaired and back in business. and had this place cleaned up, Of course, the logistics supplies back to normal of getting fresh fruit and vegetables will take a lot longer. National Farmers' Federation boss, A little later we'll hear from Jock Laurie,

these natural disasters in the bush who says those hardest hit by all the help they can muster are going to need in the weeks and months ahead,

back on track. to get their lives and livelihoods in this, I mean - There can't be any politicking where those areas out there we're in a situation and it very very quickly. need help, anybody who wants to play politics I can urge every politician or to get out of the road, get on with doing the job and just let people

back up and going again. and getting the local economies we'll head to North Queensland, First up by a massive cyclone. belted once again John Taylor. Joining me is ABC reporter, of the damage. Tell us what you have seen G'day, Anne. Well look - actually, seen some heartbreaking scenes, of homes with the roofs ripped off and air where walls used to be. here in Tully I mean, a lot of homes and you can just see it. have been affected, and a bit shocked actually. Home owners are a bit stunned It is a scene repeated across North Queensland - in many communities and many more. Silkwood, Mission Beach and entered the town of Tully. We crossed the highway The devastation was obvious. powerful Cyclone Yasi was - To give you a sense of just how

this used to be somebody's home. has just ripped it off. Instead, the cyclone doesn't want to speak to us, And the home owner to film here. but we've got permission the amazing devastating power You can just see

of this cyclone. one of the economic mainstays Of course, agriculture's in Far North Queensland. of Australia's banana industry. It's the centre How has it fared? has been flogged, Anne. The banana industry this crop here, You can see behind me -

trees have been flattened. that a lot of the

Australia's most popular fruit, Bananas are by a country mile. to be worth about $400 million. The industry is estimated is centred around here - And a lot of the production Innisfail and Tully. of the crops in this region We are looking at 95%

have just been wiped out. though, We are also looking at nationally, of the industry's total crop they're predicting 75% is gone. What's happened to your farms?

My farms are like this, and not a tree standing. all flattened off the ground, We won't be picking any fruit up because it's too expensive. We will have to start again. All the suckers, of growing a bunch of bananas all the cost

That must hurt. and bringing it to market.

a great deal, Financially it will hurt and psychologically it hurts too. it gets growers in the mind I think a lot of times before it gets them in the pocket. A lifetime of work in front of them. and it's laying all on the fields

Tully is a banana town. mean to Tully? What does this blow to the industry is the employment. Where it's going to affect the town in the region. Bananas are the biggest employment I myself employ 100 people,

My neighbour employs 350.

350. the area employ 100 or a few more. Several other farmers around

without a job within a few days. A lot of those people will be If those people leave town, the teachers leave - at the school. because there's less people ambulance officers, less policemen. We will end up with less

if you lose population like that. It is a snowballing effect So we need to make sure

of the town, that we maintain the population so that when the crop comes back in, there will be people here to process it and to help run it.

for farmers and for communities. So, that's got big effects of job losses in the industry. There is already talk a lot of people and the industry After Cyclone Larry, actually negotiated special payments for banana workers - and backpackers account for a lot of them -

to tide them over until production resumed, and the industry is once again lobbying for those measures to be put in place. Larry - In 2006, in Innisfail, unfortunately the banana industry has been hit hard once more. There have been some lessons learnt. I mean - as the cyclone approached a lot of growers actually chopped their banana plants to encourage faster regrowth and protect them from the cyclone,

and that has worked for some growers, but for a lot of others, it hasn't, or they just couldn't get to it in time. Can anything be salvaged from this? No, the fruit on that bunch is too thin, even if the grower was prepared to go through and pick it up. So that's just waste now?

This is just waste. The banana is very thin and it's not fully formed yet,

It's ah - no good. The grower will go through, cut that bunch off, recover his plastic bag and then leave this tree to rot. Now when the ah - that tree will then grow a sucker, the sucker has already started to grow. It's got a little sucker down here, and that's the next crop. Are these sort of suckers? These ones? No, they are what we call a water sucker.

The sucker has to come off the main plant. That will be your next crop coming off here. Now that's probably 11 months away

before he will have a bunch ready to harvest. And, how hard is it to blow, ah - What sort of force does it take to knock a banana plant over like that? Not a great deal of force, especially when it blows for a time, like in a storm that might go through for 10 minutes, they will take a lot more, because it's only 10 minutes, but where you've got - this blew for eight hours. They just weaken and weaken and weaken, and they go. Once you got above about 50km/h, they'd be starting to go. And after an hour as it strengthened - the farms would have been on the ground a long time before we got anywhere near the peak of the cyclone. And how about the sugar crop and its extensive infrastructure? Well, if anything, sugar, perhaps, is worse. I mean, you can see here

the infrastructure damage to the cane trains and that's the case for all farmers across this region. Not only are they looking at crop losses, they are looking at major infrastructure -

farm infrastructure damage too they are going to have to recover from, and nobody's really calculating the cost of that yet. In terms of sugar,

of Australia's sugar the region supplies about 30%

the damage has been extensive. and unfortunately, sugar crop is gone. Perhaps 30% of Australia's a potential loss for sugar We are talking about of half a billion dollars. These are massive figures. It is still early days. could still rise. Perhaps these figures Cyclone Yasi swept well inland. What have you heard about the impact and beyond? through the gulf communities

about this cyclone, That's the amazing thing is just its sheer size. during the week I mean, communities like Mt Isa for a Category 1 cyclone. were bracing themselves aren't really prepared A lot of these rural communities for tropical cyclones, to batten down the hatches but they have now. And that rain now is coming in and Central Australia. to the Northern Territory

I mean, the gulf communities - it was only a couple of years ago and flooding up there they were dealing with inundation so they are used to extreme weather but this is one out of the box. a lot of these communities And certainly damages to homes are going to be also experiencing at farm damage, et cetera. and they are going to be looking that Queensland has seen already, On top of the flood crisis especially in Queensland, agricultural Australia,

has taken a real belting. that claimed 40 lives Now to the floods in Queensland to homes and businesses and caused billions of dollars damage over the Christmas/New Year period. The focus, understandably, force of nature has been on that unimaginable and the Lockyer Valley one afternoon. that swept through Toowoomba it was a slow-moving disaster In other parts of the State, that dragged on for weeks. And on the Darling Downs, again and again, the floodwaters cruelly returned summer crops on record, destroying some of the best as Pip Courtney reports. were for a wet summer, Queensland's farmers knew the odds a record-breaking, but they didn't expect heartbreaking natural disaster. It took just weeks for floods to ruin grain, cotton, fruit and vegetables. thousands of hectares of cane, hay, It drowned pastures and homes, rail lines, machinery, and destroyed roads, fences and irrigation systems. washed away. Troughs, tanks and topsoil

was marooned or drowned. Dams blew out and livestock State was declared a disaster zone, By mid-January, three-quarters of the

affected. with 70 towns and over 200,000 people As the water recedes, west of Brisbane, communities like the Darling Downs,

can finally take stock. Queensland's granary, flooded twice. This fertile farming country, is extraordinary. The scale and severity of the damage of $400 million in losses There's figures bandied around across our region. the damage is so immense Quite a few landholders who,

where to start. that they're just not sure there will be some people, I'm certain will elect to exit the industry. following on from this episode, It certainly took a big hit... Well, it's hard to say. It will be particularly cruel nearly a decade of drought, if those who survived are to be felled by a flood. that hurt a lot of them so much, I suppose that's the part that had so much promise. is this year was the year was looking good. It was the year that everything fantastic there at one stage. The crops were absolutely grows cotton and grain. Dalby farmer, Wayne Newton, It's really suffered quite badly. a line of little brown sticks. Just ten days ago, it was just on his two farms. The floods took a toll

30% of the crop. We have probably lost that has been pretty badly affected, I'd say theres another 30% or so and inundated for a period of time. been fairly water logged and worked out a rough dollar-figure Have you sat down for what it's cost you? With potential crop, sort of area. we'd be getting into a seven-figure was built on wheat The Darling Downs' wealth was just miserable. but this summer's harvest probably 1 to $1.5 million. I would think it would be setback for me, yeah. Probably a financial Rod Hamilton, Rain forced Condamine farmer, mid-harvest. to abandon his wheat crop We knew that it was coming, warned us when we had an hour left. and neighbours from further west

So, you had to leave it? Just walk away from it, yep. this is the end result. 16 inches later, ah, He planted sorghum three times and three times it was washed away.

feeling that you feel, Well, it is an overwhelming

to second-guess your decisions, on how you start if I had done it differently - you know - any decisions I have made but in all honesty, I don't think to what I've done. I would do any different

Water's still lying around. than a wheat paddock. It looks more like a wetland into that corner of the property? How long is it since you have been There is even part of the property for two months. that's been too wet to reach of the farm and I didn't realise A heavy storm went through that part and - 'No, I think I'll go home.' and I got halfway down there what they're going through, Local Mayor, Ray Brown, understands for he's a farmer too. of his neighbour's sorghum crop The flood dumped sections trashed his white gravel roads around his Mooney farm, $300,000 wheat crop. and wrecked his dad's I've ever had all my life. It was the best year

two and half months. We blew it all in two months, a complete write-off The wheat was just seen that happen. and I have never ever mean this paddock The diseases in the ruined wheat crop in winter. won't be fit to be sown to Tim Brown's pretty sanguine. Despite it all, You take it as it comes, that's all. the car racing down the bloody creek What about the poor devil with with someone in it? Not real good.

I'm not anyway. We're not going to whinge. by cotton grower, Ian Peterson. His attitude is echoed Does it make you want to give up farming? Ah, not give up but it sets you back a little bit.

Just keep having a go. The Petersons' place was extensively damaged. There was hardly anything out of water. You couldn't see anything but water.

I guess I'm shocked but records are meant to be broken. (Chuckles) They lost half their corn, a quarter of their cotton and their silt in the crop. I can't irrigate it anymore because it's altered the levels of the field,

so the water won't flow down there to irrigate it.

Is that green crop going to deliver you anything come harvest? It will deliver something. But with the floodwaters going right over it, it dropped all its fruit and it's staring again. and it's probably six weeks to two months behind, so you're going to get less and less yield off it. Normally, cotton fields are laser leveled every ten years. now the whole farm needs re-doing. That alone will cost over half a million dollars. So, your main job now is trying to get the dirt that's in the wrong place back to where it should be?

Yes, so I can salvage some crop, to put some money in the bank.

From devastated and downgraded crops to damaged infrastructure,

most on-farm losses can be quantified. But what's proving more difficult to measure is the cost to farmers of thousands upon thousands of tonnes of lost topsoil. It's precious and virtually irreplaceable, and it's absence will seriously impact on the productivity of crops to come for many years. You rely on that nice, humus topsoil

to get germination and fertility and everything else. So, you got to try and build that up again. And that will take years? Yeah, I would say a lot of years to get it back to order again. Earthworks are a priority at the McVeighs, but there is only time for a patch-up job that can last until harvest.

Unfortunately not working perfectly, looks a little bit ugly but it is working, we'll be able to irrigate the crop. The McVeighs lost a quarter of their cotton. Any silver lining at all? Ah, yeah, there is, the silver lining there is - the fact that all our ring tanks are full, the rivers and the creeks are running, we will have carry over water for next year, the cotton prices are looking good. Mayor Ray Brown says the high cotton price is cause for concern because some growers forward-sold cotton at $500 a bale. When you get a loss of crop like this, they have to wash these contracts out. Now, to replace them - and today's rate was $850 a bale -

there is a shortfall,

find to wash the contracts out with. and that's dollars they have to That's a significant impact. farmers owing $5 million. He is hearing of which means plenty of growth left. Nice and green looking too, NAB's Agribusiness boss in Queensland won't add to their woes. believes bankers Certainly not. is something I think playing hardball that is a thing of the past. some tough decisions made I think there will be including us, and hopefully that all banks, to ensure that's done well, quick, work closely with our clients situation that may be apparent. and stress is taken out of any Rural lenders are out and about, customers are coping. checking how their are worried about their neighbours We have come across a few people who

and the state of mind they're in, flood-impacted. if they've been particularly quite a positive outlook But most people have and are ready to go again. there's crops out there And, you know, that are salvageable and fine. So, it is not all doom and gloom. are avoiding calls from their bank, Yet with talk some farmers as much a concern as repairing farms. mental health is becoming that have probably had enough, I know there's plenty of people

that, you know, this is too hard. last year, Rod Hamilton featured on Landline Oldies rugby team-cum-men's shed, in a story about the local Golden the Condamine Codgers. It's just the sort of social network support role in coming months. that will play a vital community

of emotional distress out there I think there is a bit there will be a reality check and probably in the next two months for a lot of people. a fiscal black hole, And there will be and yes, it is overwhelming, how you deal with it and I don't know and being there, I suppose. other than doing what we do for AgForce out here, You are the point man you are taking a lot of calls. some of those calls How hard was it to take

and hear some of those stories? things I've ever done. Certainly one of the hardest Ah, speak to people. letting them speak. It's probably a lot about just let them know And on the other side, they're not on their own. in that same boat. There is a lot of other people (They sing Camptown Races) is the number of volunteers Something that is helping who've headed bush. John Marshal's farm Clifton Hay farmer, was wrecked by the floods.

Queensland Murray-Darling Committee Volunteers coordinated by the and his, months ahead. have put its recovery, and debris all over them All our fences were knocked down the old debris off and they have taken and posts that we can and we've recovered the wire yeah, that's no good. and we've dumped the rest, quite a number of crews At the moment we've got going out every day on farms. We have got a waiting list as soon as we can. and we will try to get to people needed help with? What sort of things have farmers from a supportive person I guess it is everything,

their situations are, to listen to what off paddocks, finding fences, through to removing debris putting fences back up, in the worst situations. finding stock or burying stock

fences after Victoria's fires, BlazeAid, the group that rebuilt sent a team. came down to Victoria A lot of Queenslanders for the bushfires back in 2009 back the services to Queensland and we thought it's nice to give in their hour of need. from the US is even here. A volunteer crew that's really based on, We've got an organisation out of their way if everybody was to go to try and help out everybody else, looking after you, you'd have six billion people So, we just want to help. instead of just one. The damage is so bad, though,

the region fully recovers. it'll be years before seriously worried That leaves Ray Brown of his community. about the resilience for a month, He didn't see his flooded farm and 99 small communities he leads. focussing instead on the 23 towns and assets. We know that. We lost a lot of infrastructure But we cannot rebuild lives We can rebuild them. and that's what we tried to save. Look, you know, where little towns like Condamine unfortunate circumstances I mean, were evacuated twice - a whole town. but the safety was the issue. extremely unusual circumstances

gone through the shed here... You can see where the water has widely praised out here, Ray Brown's decisive leaderships been

local government colleagues like a lot of his and Queensland's Premier, Anna Bligh. His dad's not surprised. No, he done a real good job. He might be my son but damn it all, he earned it. don't burn yourself out, mate. And all I say to him is until the regions functioning again. The Mayor reckons he can't relax

it'll be a minimum of three months We've now been informed that up and going to Brisbane, to port. before we can get that rail network months which is of huge concern. It could take as much as seven doom and gloom on the Downs. Fortunately, it's not all Dams and soil profiles are full

on his property. and just look at the grass So, you're set for that paddock. Yes, plenty of happy cows. they are grinning from ear to ear. Certainly in the grazing industry the cattle to market - They probably can't get but the grass is just phenomenal. They're like houses from the air bullocks in the grass. when you see the seem happy beside a dam And his cattle certainly

that hasn't filled in years. Not every crop on every farm was hit. sorghum crops to come home. There's some good cotton and or elevated, Anywhere where it's slightly drained are the best they have been. some of those crops to us at the moment look fantastic. Some sorghum crops around here close

if the weather does the right thing. Which is very encouraging news, This summer, that's a very big if. still really at the early stages And here we are, here in Queensland. of our wet season We don't know what's ahead in the next two months.

Joining me now from Canberra is National Farmers Federation President, Jock Laurie.

It's early days, but what's your best estimate of the financial damage to agriculture, and how long will Australia take to recover? Well, it is early days and there has been figures put on it by different groups. They are talking six or seven hundred million dollars. But we think the bill will be far greater than that. Lost production being one component but also the infrastructure damage on private properties is quite enormous,

especially through the cotton industry, with a lot of their cotton infrastructure pretty badly damaged. So that's just from an agricultural point of view. Of course, the public bill, with public roads, rail systems, obviously a lot of damage has been done to infrastructure there, that is also going to put enormous cost back onto the Australian community. There's a range of financial assistance

available to those in rural and regional areas.

Are people taking advantage of that? Well, they really need to because we need to be able to go to the Government. If there are problems with those packages that are there, we need to be able to go to the Government and say the existing packages either do work or don't work. If people aren't prepared to take them up, then it is difficult to mount a case as to why you should have changes or what system should be in place. But I think it's become quite clear that in many areas, one of the natural disaster reliefs up there, low-interest loans or opportunities to take them on,

but in many cases people don't want to take on extra loans. They would like to look at the interest rate subsidies

on some of their existing loans to get them through the next 12 months. There are options like that we have spoken to the Government about and will continue to speak to the government about. Looking to the wider recovery effort now, you are on the business taskforce with trucking magnate, Lindsay Fox, and Michael Luscombe from Woolies. What sort of input will you have into the reconstruction?

There is a lot of expertise there, right across from construction to transport, to retailing food, to producing food, with myself sitting on the NFF. So, it is a matter of getting people to understand the difficulties that our industry have got. The importance of getting the road and rail infrastructure up and going again so we can move produce around. Those rural economies out there very much rely on that, so that needs to get up and get going so people can start getting into the market again and those towns will survive because cash flow gets going. the importance I think getting people to understand look after regional areas of making sure they the bigger centres, just as much as they look after to the state economies, and how important it is the State economies, first of all, the local economies, to get that up and going. and the Australian economy in those areas either, of course. It is not just agriculture out in some of those towns Mining plays a big part washed out are making it difficult. and having the rail links completely and there's a lot of money at stake, There are a lot of jobs out there

up and going is really critical. so the importance of getting that proposed flood levy The Prime Minister Julia Gillard's has received mixed reviews. a majority opposition. Public polling shows to fund the recovery? What's the NFF's view on how best

go it didn't matter what happened. We have been arguing from the word into those areas Money needed to be put back

up and going, to get that infrastructure

up and going. road and rail infrastructure And there needed to be a commitment to put money in there. from the government is in place to govern. Now, in the end the Government and they will make decisions. They have got to make decisions public will make their own mind up Out of that, of course, the general that was the best way to go or not. as to whether they believe to get a commitment out there. But the fact is, that we needed that work needs to be done. That money is out there, but initially get the roads open Not just patch-up work and restructure those roads and then go back

of long-term health about them, so they have a bit and sustainability about them.

needed to be there. So that commitment to funding And in the end, as I say, they will make decisions. the Government are in to govern, It is up to them to justify it

to judge them on that. and it's up to the community may get in the way Are you concerned that politicking of getting things moving again? be any politicking in this. Oh well, there can't where those areas need help I mean, we are in a situation and need it very, very quickly. anybody who wants to play politics So I urge every politician or people get on with doing the job to get out of the road and just let back up and going again. and getting the local economies on top of prolonged drought These disasters coming

for some farmers. might be the last straw drought hardened the industry up. This was very frustrating, and the a 10-year period We had to deal with that over seasonal conditions and from really extreme heartbreaking the drought to sort of getting season into a drought again. in between and going back very much so. So, emotionally it drained people people very much so, I think financially it drained but considering just how bad it was, around out of the drought people have sort of come back and turned into a very good year. Put a big crop in, had, for many different reasons, invested good money again and have for instance, it be downgraded in the winter wheat in the situation it is in. or the cotton and the sugar It is causing problems. next 12 to 18 months, And there's no doubt that in the decisions about how they progress, people will be making serious in the industry, whether they continue make adjustments to their businesses whether they or just how they're going to cope, had enough altogether. or whether they have on a regular basis. We know people make those decisions challenge to do that. I think this time will be a real 2010 Australian of the Year, the psychiatrist, Patrick McGorry, was in central Queensland recently visiting flood-affected residents,

and he identified the need for long-term mental health support in those areas. Is this something that's on the NFF's radar? To get some real action on? Absolutely, one of the first things we did when the floods went through was talk to the government about getting assistance up there to deal with the mental health issues. It is something we have seen throughout the drought period, the pressure applied to people, and the importance of getting assistance to go out into the areas. They were in the earliest discussions we had. As a matter of fact, I went up to Theodore probably a week, 10 days before that visit and it was clear to me there were people under enormous pressure, emotional pressure, at the time. It was only a few days after they lost their cotton crops in those areas, and they were feeling the strain. So, in the end, being healthy, being alive is the biggest thing you can get. The financial pain obviously hurts but the really important part is to make sure people are healthy and get through this. Do you think the major supermarkets have a particular responsibility to do what they can to help farmers get back on their feet? We have been saying all along the Australian industry produces a lot of very good fresh produce. Obviously at times when you come under some environmental factors, the fruit and vegetables may not be quite as fresh and bright as you'd normally hope to see. But it is really important those domestic supermarket chains support agriculture, understand the difficulties of production throughout the last three to four months but continue to get in there and support the industry.

They have got to be there for the long term.

We've got to continue to supply into the Australian domestic market for a long period of time. Obviously producers need to be able to generate income to do that, to stay in the industry. I would encourage everybody to get in there and realise there could easily be a few blemishes in some of the fruit they're getting but still, it goes two ways. It helps people in the industry stay in the industry and keeps them there for the future. Jock Laurie, we wish you well in your new job wrangling all the challenges now confronting the bush.

Thank you very much. The proposed flood levy has stirred strong debate across the country and even on the Darling Downs, opinions are divided over it. I don't disagree with it but just depends how it is implemented. I don't think it has been explained enough yet. Well, you need the money, don't you? That's it! Open and shut case.

I don't actually agree with it. And the point that a lot of money gets sent overseas, to Indonesia all those places. Where is the money that comes back into Australia? I think it is a good initiative by the Federal Government to assist people that are less fortunate than most people and it is a way of contributing to other states

and other people that aren't directly affected. Got to find the money from somewhere to be able to do all this stuff. They tell me the water is going to come up again

before the end of April. I guess we just got to wait and see what happens. I think in some ways it is fair that we all have to contribute but at the same time, are we going to have a system put in place so that forever, there is something, that every time we have a natural disaster in Australia, we actually care about the people in Australia. There are an awful lot of people that have already contributed to the situation, and I don't believe we should have to go enough again.

Our taxes are high enough in general, in Australia, as it is, so I don't agree. Death and taxes, you can't avoid them, can you? But if it all goes to a good cause, so be it. Extraordinary seems almost too mild to describe agribusiness events over the last couple of months and what's likely to happen in the immediate future. The bottom line is, of course, the price. No matter how much we talk about weather or wars, for the farmer what matters is how much will he or she get for the production effort? To analyse the year ahead, I am joined from Melbourne by the boss of Australian Agribusiness, Pat O'Shannessy.

Pat, this looks to be a reasonably promising year right across the farming sector?

I think that's spot on. What we have seen in the world is last year there was a few production hiccups, Australia one of those. This year the markets are saying we can't afford to have any supply problems anywhere in the world.

And, you know, that doesn't happen very often. For wheat, there has been some suggestion

that some countries are in fact buying wheat and hoarding it. Is there any evidence of this actually happening?

There has been some of that going on. We have seen some of the North African countries buying at tender and buying more than they would routinely do. There certainly is unease in the market and, I think, an expectation from other people in the market that buyers are short

and the political situation is obviously unstable and better to be safe than sorry and buy some more grain. Let's talk about feed wheat. There's a lot of it around, and China has been in the market big time. There has been. Australia has had a very unfortunate harvest. Fortunately global grain prices are relatively high and that's supported by the corn balance sheet in the US. Corn, being the grain that can raise all grain prices,

has been pretty firm. And what we have seen is China step into the market and buy some Australian feed wheat, rumoured to be about half a million tonnes. And what they tell us is there is an outlet for the Australian feed wheat but the price needs to stay at a point where it makes it viable for the Chinese to buy that as opposed to other sources, such as US corn.

Any suggestion of what price they are getting for the feed wheat? The talk in the market was it was around $260 US FOB - free on board. Of course, only the people that traded it know the answer but that was a price that was pretty commonly quoted in the market at the time. That's still a pretty good price, all things considered.

That's right. As we say, the global grain prices are relatively firm

so even though while it is unfortunate what has happened to the Australian harvest this year, the fact of the matter is that the prices are firm and yields are up in Australia, so to some extent that compensates for the downgrading we have seen in the Australian wheat crop. It doesn't cover it all but it provides some level of compensation. So, some possibly volatile price times ahead.

Given a lot of farmers can't get their head around hedging and futures trading, given the current state of the market, is this the time to jump in, bite the bullet and have a go at hedging or taking on the futures? We have seen a situation where markets are high and prices are currently at a point where from a farm-management point of view are profitable for most farmers. So, it is something farmers should take a look at. They certainly need to be comfortable about it.

What we have seen over the last years is people that have forward-sold, in a drought situation, have to unwind those positions and often add some expenses.

So it is a situation where the prices do work and probably the best advice is to take it little by little and don't do too much. That's Pat O'Shannessy

from the Australian Agribusiness company in Melbourne. Let's start our price check with grains - and locally, wheat was steady last week but that price is up $30 since the start of summer. Looking forward - WA wheat for January next year is firm at $352 a tonne, while milling wheat on the east coast for the same month

lifted a fraction to $336 a tonne. Sorghum is competing against all the feed wheat around while canola went up again last week

$600 a tonne - up $50 since early December. All trading eyes will be on Chicago this week as traders try to get a handle on three major influences -

the fracas in the Middle East, a big wheat crop in Pakistan, and, of course, the snowstorms right across America. There were price spikes across the board. Wheat lifted again. That's a rise of $1.50 a bushel in about eight weeks. The corn market is driven by the ethanol business, while soybeans remain strong but the price might have hit the wall

as reports emerge of a big crop in Brazil. But the big story of the summer has been the price of cotton. This time last year it was around 80 cents a pound. Have a look at what's happened since - up and up it went, fairly steady at first

but in recent weeks it's been ballistic - up more than 50% since the start of summer. It's up slightly on the week. It hit $1.81 at one stage but the problems from Egypt cooled sentiment and cotton settled just above $1.70. Sugar futures slumped after reports of a big crop out of India. Also a factor is the thought that the losses from Cyclone Yasi weren't as bad as initially feared. Is this the case? Here's the response from Canegrowers boss, Steve Greenwood. Unfortunately all our fears have been realised - it's very, very bad.

We think the 2011 crop is going to be very significantly affected. Already, I think, we're seeing some massive fluctuations in sugar prices, as we speak, and a big part of that is because of the impact of the cyclone on the Australian sugar crop. The one bit of positive news in the whole thing is that prices are very high, and they do look as if they're going to remain high for the very near future. So sugar closed just above 32 cents, still a cracker price by any interpretation. Now to the saleyards where the market has been dominated by extraordinary prices for lambs. The indicator smashed through the 600-cent mark and processors are so desperate for numbers they are checking supplies as far away as Western Australia. At Bendigo on Monday a pen of extra heavy lambs reached $223 a head,

and that price was surpassed at Horsham a few days later. At the end of the week the overall price gain was 64 cents, to an all time high of $6.26 a kilo. The reason, or reasons - it's a number game. Slaughter rates are way down and demand is heading north, especially exports - up 15% last year. And our biggest lamb markets?

About equal - the United States and China. Other markets were almost calm compared to the lamb frenzy. Trade cattle, Jap ox and cows all slipped, while there was a positive tone for feeder steers. Numbers were way up as yard activity started to get back to normal following the floods across the east. Finally to wool where it's been another very good week. Check the Eastern Market Indicator

and how it's travelled in the past decade or so - a big spike in the middle of 2002, another smaller spike in 2007,

a slump, and now a massive spike. And it's yet to stop - a great sight for woolgrowers.

Last week the Eastern Market Indicator lifted 60 cents to close at 1,255 cents a kilo.

That represents a gain of 42% since the start of the season. And that price now compares favourably

to the highest prices seen in the mid 1980s. And that positive note closes the commodities report for this week. Joining me now is CEO of the Brisbane markets, Rocklea, Andrew Young. I am sure, like most Australians, your thoughts this weekend are with those in North Queensland. Yes, at this time it is very destructive up there

so our thoughts are with them. It's clearly going to massively disrupt the banana and tropical fruit industries up there again, isn't it? It is. More disruption for the flow of fruit and vegetables to consumers which is disappointing but we will work through it as the industry always does, and no doubt rebound quickly over the coming months. The devastation to those industries after Cyclone Larry in 2006

is still very fresh in people's minds. How long did it take after that for people to recover and rebuild? Probably best talking to growers for some of the best examples,

but the industry does bounce back quickly. Bananas, it took up to a year for some of them to get back into the production cycle with crop production, But in a short time, product gets back onto the market, whether it's fruit, whether it's vegetables,

there's substitute products that can be put into place so consumers do have choice and we get product flowing quickly through the supply chain such as the market system throughout Australia. When you say 'substitute products' you just mean getting other fruit and vegies in there. Maybe it means eating an apple instead of a banana. Those options do exist for people, and they look at what's cost sensitive, but, the value of fruit and vegetables, it's always cheep eating, and at times like this prices go up but if they want to compare it to other products that are available

to other snack foods, fruit and vegetables are always cheap in terms in what you get value for money wise.

Now, you and others have made the point that supply lines are going to be pretty tight for some time, and when they do return, things will be expensive and might not look so shiny and pristine as we are used to. People should keep eating. It's what's on the inside that counts. Obviously, if there's a little bit of blemish on the outside and people are used to buying perfect-looking fruit then maybe, at times like this, they have to lower their sights a little. But the products there that will be available, prices will be reasonable and as I said, always value for money when they look at the alternatives. We have heard calls for major supermarkets to do their bit and preference home grown fruit and vegetables, rather than import. That's correct, I mean, our call's the same. There isn't a lot of fresh product imported into Australia and we don't see a great need for that to change. Obviously, we are going through a rough patch at the moment, it's driven by climate and flooding. The industry will bounce back, it always does. It shouldn't form the basis for some great call for looking at overseas sourced products. Those products have to go through the right protocols and processes

if they are going to be imported. That is a matter for state and federal governments to look at. Right now we have a natural disaster on our hands. The growers, the marketing system, the retailers will bounce back and we will keep product flowing through to consumers. The markets here took a massive hit in the Brisbane floods. Have wholesalers had a chance to get a handle on the costs to infrastructure and other losses yet? Costs haven't been fully quantified. Our early estimates it's certainly in excess of $100 million.

In product losses, vehicle losses, infrastructure losses, some of that still will be quantified over the coming weeks, and again, some will take months for wholesalers to fully recover. As we have seen all over the country this summer, people have pitched in to help with the clean-up and recovery. You even had the army here at one stage. We had everyone helping. The army had some reservists in that did a great job. We had airport tenders in, helping hosing out, the Queensland fire and rescue service did a brilliant job. A couple of appliances out of NSW fire services, Queensland country fire brigade. The police did a brilliant job helping with traffic control and ensuring there wasn't looting. Everyone chipped in. The volunteer armies turned up in droves with food. They wanted to help. The community effort was unsurpassed. Helped us dramatically in getting back up on our feet as quickly as we did. How long it did it take to reopen? We had this area here behind us, the covered unloading area and the trading floors. open for receiving of product within 60 hours. We had the buyers coming in for limited distribution, 12 hours later on Monday morning. So quite quick turnaround. I mean, superficially things might have looked fairly normal. Obviously, there was a lot of damage behind the scenes. We're still working away getting the last warehouses up and running with power. So, we haven't fully reinstated the site as yet. And then there's a lot of the other small things

we are still to get operational fully. You know, dock levelers, even locks to doors, you don't think about things like this. But you know, the mud is through everything. There is quite a few weeks of work before we are back to normal. I think congratulations is in order. Andrew Young, thank you for joining us on Landline. Thank you very much, and good luck to North Queensland.

It's probably the most talked about topic of the summer - the weather. The rain, the floods and of course, the cyclones. The crucial indicator to these weather events has been the Southern Oscillation Index. Earlier, the University of Southern Queensland's resident climatologist, Professor Roger Stone, explained its significance. Well this time last year, we had the SOI way down minus 23. The El Nino pattern, in fact, in the Pacific, that had given us a pretty bad draught, up until that point, or just before that point, was starting to break down. The tell-tale sign, though, was this massive shift upwards, in the Southern Oscillation Index, around last year, through the Autumn period. And then it pretty well maintained that sort of resurgent pattern,

right through winter, spring and into summer. And that's usually what happens, the pattern that is established usually around the end of autumn tends to stay with us for about a year. And that was the warning sign, if you like, that we were heading straight from an El Nino, right to the opposite type of pattern, which is this this infamous La Nina system that we are still in. So there were clear signs from around early June last year

that not only Queensland would suffer from this sort of rainfall, but also a lot of NSW, as we know, around Wagga, around the Victoria border, with their flooding last spring, would also be subject to fairly heavy rain. And Tasmania, actually. So that pattern is still with us, and the earliest we could hope for that to break down would be autumn of this year. There are a few models to suggest that it may carry on, but we'll have to reassess the situation, as we always do, around about the Southern Hemisphere autumn. So the Bureau got it right. So where's La Nina headed now? Well, it's still with us, there's no sign of it actually breaking down at this stage. The computer models, the oceanographic models, are mostly showing it to break down around the last part of autumn,

but not all the models are showing that. So the recommendation is always to reassess these patterns around Autumn, our Southern Hemisphere's autumn each year, just to see which way it's moving. And from then, you can start to make decisions. If you're on the land and you're worried about, or interested in, what's going to happen for the next 12 months, around about May/June, the ocean systems have pretty well made up their mind. So, above average rain until about that time? Fairly high chance, that's right, for most of the country. And not only in Australia, but many other parts of the world as well. So high change of above normal rainfall, yes, right through to mid Autumn. It's tapering on a bit, as you might expect. It tends to lose direct impact as you go into autumn but the risk is there. Now, cyclones, what's left for the season ahead?

Well, because you have an La Nina, and this is the way I'd approach this, Jerry - if you have a La Nina, especially one as intense as this, there is always a risk of more cyclones right through to March/April. So still a few months to go where we still have to be on guard. That's Roger stone with his favourite topic, the S.O.I.

Confirming the 30-day moving average for the S.O.I. is now plus-10.1, and as Roger Stone suggested, the wet weather is likely to continue. Now , rainfall last week and let's head straight to the the national map, that map secured from the Bureau late Friday, and clearly shows the big dumps from Cyclone Yasi. Of significance is the rain in the middle areas of New South Wales, and that south-west corner of WA would have welcomed the showers in that region. To numbers, and it's hard to pick one out of the pack on the coast but of interest would be the 15 recorded at Mount Isa in Queensland. In New South Wales, the Age College at Orange recorded 10,

and their colleagues at Cookie in Victoria registered 18. Dover in Tasmania scored 11, while Kimball in South Australia had 10. Lots of rain in the Territory, with one of the top readings of 100 found in the gauge at Douglas River. And finally to Western Australia where Bullfinch had 23.

And that's the Landline check on rainfall. Before we go, a word or two of congratulations to some Land liners recognised for their excellence. Jerry Straight took out the top television award at the recent South Australian rural media awards and her Adelaide-based colleague, Sprue Adams, was highly commended. And how about former Landline alumni, Sally Sara, getting a gong in the Australia Day honours? TV REPORTER: ABC foreign correspondent, Sally Sara, has been recognised for raising awareness of international issues with her reporting from some of the world's most devastating events. It is a lovely surprise and a great honour. I'm part of a team so it is a joy to be able to celebrate with ABC colleagues around the world today. We will leave you with the finale from this year's Golden Guitar Awards in Tam worth, that brought together some of the biggest names in Australian country music and an all-time Beatles classic. See you next week.

# When I was younger so much younger than today

# I never needed anybody's help in any way. # But now those days are gone I'm not so self-assured # Now I find I change my mind I've opened up the door

# Help me if you can I'm feeling down # And I do appreciate you being round

# Help me get my feet back on the ground

# Won't you please help me. # (Closed Captions by CS)